Monday, August 22, 2022

Frederick Buechner

Frederick Buechner (1926―2022) is an American novelist and writer of memoir, theology, essays, sermons, and some poetry ― who died this past Monday, August 15th. He was a Presbyterian minister, although he never pastored a church, and a novelist who authored 39 books, including Lion Country (1971), a finalist for the National Book Award, and Godric (1980), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The poet James Merrill was one of his childhood friends, and the novelist John Irving was one of his students.

In the Washington Post, Cecelia Holland wrote of Buechner’s 1987 novel Brendan ― “In our own time, when religion is debased, an electronic game show, an insult to the thirsty soul, Buechner’s novel proves again the power of faith, to lift us up, to hold us straight, to send us on again.”

In April of 2004, at the Festival of Faith & Writing, I heard him speak and read from some of his books, including his novel The Son of Laughter, which is about the life of Jacob. Once the festival was through, my friends and I hadn’t had enough, so we went to hear him preach at Grand Rapids, Michigan’s Central Reformed Church. There he spoke about Thomas’s confession of Christ in John 20. He told us, we have to imagine ourselves into Bible stories, and considering Thomas was known as “The Twin” Buechner said, “I am the other twin ― unless I miss my guess ― and so are you.”


Maybe it’s all utterly meaningless.
Maybe it’s all unutterably meaningful.
If you want to know which,
pay attention to
what it means to be truly human
in a world that half the time
we’re in love with
and half the time
scares the hell out of us…

The unexpected sound of your name on somebody’s lips.
The good dream.
The strange coincidence.
The moment that brings tears to your eyes.
The person who brings life to your life.

Even the smallest events hold the greatest clues.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.